The tanker market is swirling with rumours of buyers willing to pay elevated prices for modern VLCCs as they try to get a jump on a crude sector recovery and rising newbuilding prices.

The sharpest reports centre on Norway’s Hunter Group, which was said by brokers on Thursday to be dealing between two and all four of its 2020-built units for $95m each.

But the company most commonly linked with the reports, New York-listed DHT Holdings, told TradeWinds that it is not the buyer.

“We are aware of the rumours, but we have not acquired the ships,” chief executive Svein Moxnes Harfjeld said on Thursday.

Reports rippling through brokers had DHT as the buyer for a price that would be a step up for modern VLCC values.

A separate unconfirmed report had Vitol dealing a modern VLCC to the Tsakos group for the same $95m.

Either scenario would be a bump up from the last comparable sale by Hartree Partners of two eco scrubber-fitted VLCCs to Belgium’s Euronav at $179m en bloc.

Euronav on 29 April confirmed buying the 300,000-dwt Chelsea (built 2020) and Ghillie (built 2019).

Broker sources indicate that Hartree originally had price expectations of about $100m each when it entered the market.

This week’s buzz around the Hunter units reflects a gathering enthusiasm in the crude sector after more than 18 months of depressed rates.

Buyers are waking up to the reality that there are few newbuilding slots available, given the order glut in other sectors such as LNG and container ships, with higher steel prices and other inflationary pressures driving newbuilding prices higher, tanker market sources said.

Some have also noticed the recovery in rates and asset values in the clean products sector and are trying to get ahead of the curve on the next move in crude.

So what is happening at Hunter, the Oslo-listed owner that has previously been at the centre of sales rumours that didn’t turn into reality?

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Hunter does not comment on market rumours, but those following the company indicate there has been heightened interest in its vessels lately.

The Hunter VLCCs are the 300,000-dwt Hunter Disen, Hunter Freya, Hunter Frigg and Hunter Idun (all built 2020). VesselsValue assesses their worth at between $91m and $92.5m each.

DHT, with a fleet of 24 VLCCs, most recently was a seller, dealing the 299,000-dwt DHT Hawk (built 2007) and DHT Falcon (built 2006) for a total of $78m.